Bascule Bridge

After leaving the boat yard early on Wednesday, I began the 70 mile, 2 day trek back down the intracoastal waterway through the slew of bascule bridges to Charlotte Harbor. Why, I wasn’t sure, but mostly because my car was still at Burnt Store Marina and, well, I didn’t have any better ideas.

I dropped the anchor in Sarasota Wednesday afternoon and tossed around the idea of spending a month there at Marina Jack, the uber-nice marina where the boat was when I bought her 2 years ago. But I’d been there and done that, plus they’re pretty proud of their slips, so I charted out the remainder of the trip south on my Garmin Bluechart iPad app.

I left at daybreak on Thursday knowing I’d have to get lucky with timing the bridges in order to make Burnt Store before dark. The route would take me under 11 bridges, 10 of which were too short for my 55′ clearance, requiring the whole process of stopping traffic and raising the bridge just so I can pass.

Bridges are a major factor on Florida’s ICW. Some open on command…all you have to do is call the helpful bridge tender and they halt traffic and open up as soon as you’re close.

Others, however, are apparently more important. Land lubbers rule the roost, causing the bridges to only open on a certain schedule, regardless of the boat’s desires.

“Hackney Point Bridge, this is the southbound sailing vessel L’Attitude. When is your next opening?”

“L’Attitude, this is Hackney Point. You just missed it. Next opening will be in 18 minutes.”

So began the jockeying that takes into account (with varying degrees of success) a 1.5 knot current trying to push me into the bridge–18 minutes early–and the wind trying to push me into the marina on one side of the channel or the sandbar on the other.

I was only halfway through the day’s trip, so arriving to Burnt Store in daylight was still very much in flux. This being on my mind as the current forced me into an unplanned mid-channel 360 maneuver.

That’s when I noticed the marina I was trying not to crash into. It looked nice. Walking distance to downtown Venice. New floating docks. Pretty boats. A big sign that said “Slips Available” with a phone number.

“Hi. Do you have a slip for a 42′ sailboat for a month or so?”
“Yeah…I don’t think that’d be a problem.”
“How much are we talking?”
“[$50 cheaper than Burnt Store]”
“I’ll take it. Which slip can I have and can you give me a hand with the lines?”
“Wait…you’re already here?! Sure…we’ll be right out!”

“Hackney Point Bridge, sailing vessel L’Attitude”
“Go ahead L’Attitude”
“Yes sir…I um, I don’t think I’ll need the bridge opening anymore. I think I’m going to stay here for a while. Have a good day!”
“Roger that, captain. You too.”

So here I sit, giving Venice, Florida a go for the first time since my 21st birthday when I almost crashed my boat on the jetties, 10 years ago.